Big game Saturday. Straight on to Amazon and hit the re-order button. Another 2 big bottles of confidence please! If only. If only it was that simple and you could guarentee a performance.
You get games where you do no wrong. You want the ball, demand it, no matter where you are on the park, in space or not. You might play a bad pass or lose it and shrug it off, getting yourself into another position to get on it again. Fearless.
Then there’s the other times. The exact opposite. You try a pass, it gets cut out. Next time you play it simple, you can’t even do that. You go to look for the ball, and it’s rolling towards you like a rugby ball and it hits your shin ,goes to an opponent and it starts. You are having one!
Your team mates can see it, they tell you to keep going, keep the head. The fans can see it. They tell you to “Get Aff!” Your head is spinning as you start talking to yourself, trying to get out the rut, and at the same time getting the camouflage gear on trying to blend in with the grass for 5 minutes until you take a breather and sort your head out.
Then you see the subs getting sent out for a warm up. Is the manager thinking about a change or just playing mind games? Wonder if you’ll get taken off? Your nightmare continues and ball goes out of play. Ref blows his whistle to indicate a change so without looking you start walking off. Then somebody runs past you towards touchline. You check the number on the board. It’s not you. So you ask the nearest player what number you’re wearing? Must be a mix up? Even I would have subbed me!
But then that gives you a lift. Managers got faith in me. He knows I’m struggling but he’s kept me on and all of a sudden you’re showing for the ball again, making things happen. All players will have a confidence dip at some time. The top players might have a bad game a season, maybe 2 but it will happen. It’s how to deal with it thats important.
I’ve seen first hand guys that have came to a club with a reputation, goal machine for talking sake. They hit a dry patch and all of a sudden he’s a totally different guy that swaggered in months before wondering how many goals will get him the club record. He can ask to play with the reserves, get a few goals, be flying again. What if he doesn’t? What if he has another nuke? What then?
Another thing when youre not playing well. The shouts from the stands. You hear EVERYTHING. Don’t get me wrong, when you’re playing well, making tackles or threading passes to forwards, the clapping and cheering make you feel 10 feet tall. They even throw in your nickname to let you know how well you’re doing. They love me!
Then, there’s the polar opposite. You make a mistake. A murmur. Another mistake. Grumblings get louder. Another error? You get told in no uncertain terms how bad you are and they even throw in a suggestion of where you should possibly head to… a place that you won’t find in any holiday brochure. And if there was any doubt how annoyed they were with you, your surname got added at the end.
Case closed. Fans always have their favourites for whatever reason. The guy that scores all the goals. The organiser at the back that’s the club hardman. The guy that no matter what, gives 100% every game and kisses the badge every opportunity. Or maybe he’s just good looking with lovely legs. But they also have a grudge against other players in the team for whatever reason. They know why and try to justify it when questioned, even though it sounds ridiculous as they hear themselves speak.
No matter how well they play they will never be good enough for their team. Back in the good old days when crowds were allowed in, fans worked hard all week with the game at the weekend to look forward to. That was their purpose. It justified doing the job they are in, happy or not. Most go along to the games to get behind the team, hoping for a good performance but ultimately wanting a win.
There were others of the “I’ve paid my money I’ll shout what I want!” brigade. Thats fine. Entitled to an opinion and all that. But if you are a player going through a sticky patch, you know it yourself. You don’t need told every 2 minutes. Getting constant stick will not improve a players performance.
It must be one of the few jobs it happens in. Imagine turning up to fit a carpet in somebody’s house and theres a couple of hundred people shouting at you telling you how mince you are. And probably none of them actually ever fitted a carpet before either but if they had would have been much better than this dumpling. But it’s all part and parcel of your job. It’s something you need to deal with.
If you’re happy enough to accept praise, you need to be big enough to handle the stick. Every player is different. Everybody has peaks and troughs to experience in their career. Its how you deal with it. You know you can turn to certain players for advice or just an ear. It’s finding a way to turn negatives into positives and come back stronger. If you don’t have the skin of a rhino, it’s maybe time to think about something else. If you’re going to fit carpets, make sure the house you’re going to is empty first…